TIFF Food, Part 2: Yonge & Dundas

The food: Breakfast and burgers at The Senator vs. Ramen and yakisoba at Kenzo Japanese Noodle House

The winner!

The winner!

The story:

I was all excited (excited!) to hear about the new Yonge & Dundas location of Kenzo Japanese Noodle House, a ramen place that some people (who don’t know shit) claim has good food.

You there, looking in the window - don't go inside!

You there, looking in the window - don't go inside!

So I stopped by on a weekday for lunch and found a lineup out the door – a good sign. When I slipped inside, the people waiting told me no one had spoken to them since they’d arrived – a bad sign. I fought my way to the back, where dirty dishes were stacked up by the cash register (uh-oh). I placed my takeout order with a pleasant but overworked and overwhelmed waitress, and eyed the shabby interior – another bad sign.

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Signs aside, such is my desire to find good ramen in Toronto (I still dream of the delectable ramen at Kintaro in Vancouver) that I was still excited when I brought the food home and plated it in my kitchen.

Kenzo's Sho-yu Ramen with Fatty Pork and Quail (?) Egg

Kenzo's Sho-yu Ramen with Fatty Pork and Quail (?) Egg

Does that ramen look good to you? It didn’t taste good: the broth was so nastily garlicky and what-are-you-trying-to-hide spicy that I was almost felled by its fumes when I opened the container lid, and the ramen noodles were tasteless. The gyoza, meanwhile:

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were okay if you like them big and meaty, with thick skins, and more knock your socks off garlic. And the yakisoba (fried noodles), had all the charm and substandard quality ingredients of noodles from a mall food court:

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A far better spot to eat in while at Yonge & Dundas, before or after seeing films at the Ryerson Theatre, the AMC Yonge-Dundas 24, or The Elgin and Winter Garden theatres, is the Senator restaurant on Victoria Street, just south of Dundas.

Diner decor at the Senator.

Diner decor at the Senator.

My overeasy eggs in the All Day Breakfast were done perfectly to order, the challah toast imprinted with lovingly even grill marks, the bacon was thick and juicy, and the home fries crisp.

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The baked beans I make at home are sweeter and softer than what the Senator serves, but hey, you can’t have everything.

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The Senator’s new burger, devised by (new to the Senator) chef Bob Bermann using a special blend of “naturally raised” meat from Cumbrae’s (though it wasn’t listed as such on the menu, our waitress assured us the new burger WAS in the house) also passed muster with my picky palate – the patty, though on the big side, had a nice char and a smoky, meaty flavour. And the ‘special sauce’ (not shown), a sweet and tangy mixture of ketchup, mayo, dijon mustard and relish that was served along with the burger reminded E and me of the sauce used at Shake Shack in New York (hmm, Shake Shack), which is always a good thing.

Other places to hit up in the Yonge & Dundas corridor while film festing: the Hakka cuisine at Spadina Garden is far superior to Kenzo’s fare – I especially like the House Fried Special Noodle. And though it’s in a mall food court, the rosti with sour cream at Richtree Market (formerly the Marche/Movenpick) in the Eaton Centre, prepared with fresh potatoes peeled, grated and fried in butter and oil right before your eyes, can’t be beat for a light (?) lunch/snack.

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Senator Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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8 thoughts on “TIFF Food, Part 2: Yonge & Dundas

  1. Christine @ Tea for Two Sisters says:

    I was so surprised to see that you didn’t like Kenzo. I’m quite the ramen newb, but this place is amazing! I love the char siu and simple soup. I have had the shoyu ramen the first time, but couldn’t finish it because I found the flavours quite boring. Once I tried the shio ramen, I fell in love. I urge you to try going back with an open mind and try their shio ramen.

  2. Joe B. says:

    Dear Hungry,

    I was wondering what happened to the old Senator restaurant? I remember taking my wife there for an after theater dinner, where we quite enjoyed and perfectly cooked filet and then upstairs on the second floor was a club and above the club on the third was a cigar bar! The cigar bar was old time decor, heavy curtains/drapes with over stuffed sofas/couches and chairs for us to sit down and relax after dinner. I enjoyed a wonderful Cuban cigar with a drink. Is this the same place? I wanted to surprise my wife for a weekend getaway so I wondered if we could do close to the same as when we were there years ago? Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated….it appears that much has changed….

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